21 September 2020 – The ASEAN Action Plan on Fall Armyworm Control and CABI are working towards effective approaches to biocontrol of fall armyworm (Spodoptera frugiperda) in Southeast Asia with an informative three-part webinar series. The webinars, the first of which took place on 10 September, explore classical, biopesticide, augmentative and conservation-based biocontrol approaches to managing fall armyworm, a pest that feeds on more than 350 plant species and can cause major damage, particularly to maize crops. 

The ASEAN Action Plan on Fall Armyworm was launched in 2020 and aims to help countries in Southeast Asia respond to, monitor and manage this crop pest. Fall armyworm was first reported in Myanmar and Thailand in 2018 and has spread rapidly, now being confirmed in almost all ASEAN countries. CABI’s Plantwise programme is already providing advice on fall armyworm management to farmers in several ASEAN countries, and with ongoing research and development work in several parts of the world, it makes sense for CABI to assist ASEAN with implementing its action plan. 

Without action, the impact of the pest’s presence is expected to be considerable. Estimates using 10% crop damage across ASEAN maize crops point to an annual US$884 million cost in terms of lost farmer income and maize imports.  

The webinar series’ line-up of international and ASEAN-based experts, including CABI’s Dr Roger Day and Dr Marc Kenis, will explain approaches to controlling fall armyworm using case studies and exploring their potential for use in ASEAN countries. Kicking off the first webinar, Dr Day gave an introduction to biocontrol the use of living organisms to control pests, usually the natural enemies of pests such as arthropods and microbes – and its different approaches. 

Commenting on the broader issues associated with biocontrol, Dr Day said, “As scientists we tend to look first at the effectiveness, but we need to think about whether it’s reducing the farmer’s losses.” He encouraged attendees to go beyond the science and consider the practicality of biocontrol as well as the regulatory environment, gender and economics.   

CABI’s Dr Marc Kenis, who has been working on classical biocontrol of fall armyworm for three years, believes an answer might lie with parasitoids (insects whose larvae live as parasites which eventually kill their host), in this case, tiny wasps taken from the fall armyworm’s native range in the Americas.  

“CABI has started surveys in Latin America for a biocontrol agent. This has resulted in the importation into our quarantines in Switzerland of two parasitoids [wasps]Eiphosoma laphygmae and Chelonus insularis. I can say that Eiphosoma laphygmae has already been sent to our quarantine facilities in Pakistan for further studies. Hopefully, we can import two or three more species for further studies later on. 

Talking about the benefits of classical biocontrol, Dr Kenis said, “One of the biggest advantages of classical biocontrol in contrast to other control methods is that there is no need for repeated actions. The control continues year after year without further cost if the natural enemy is well established and works by itself.”   

The webinar series will continue over September and October, considering solutions to fall armyworm control. 

To listen to a recording of the first webinar of the series, An introduction to biocontrol and classical approaches, click here.  

To register for the second webinar in the series, focusing on Biopesticides which takes place on 24 September, 4-5 PM (GMT +8), click here. 

To register for the third webinar in the series, focusing on Augmentation and conservation which takes place on 8 October, 4-5 PM (GMT +8), click here. 


Additional information 

CABI’s work on fall armyworm is supported through its Action on Invasives programme and Plantwise programme. 

CABI gratefully acknowledges the financial support of the UKForeign, Commonwealth & Development Office(FCDO) and the NetherlandsDirectorate General for International Cooperation (DGIS) for theAction on Invasivesprogramme; and the UKForeign, Commonwealth & Development Office(FCDO), the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), the NetherlandsDirectorate General for International Cooperation (DGIS), the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR), and the Ministry of Agriculture of the People’s Republic of China for the Plantwise programme.